Canada's public safety minister said Monday that U.S. officials should stay out of his country's domestic affairs, joining other Canadian leaders in pushing back against prominent Republicans who offered support for the protests of COVID-19 mandates that have besieged downtown Ottawa for more than a week.
A day after the city declared a state of emergency, the mayor pleaded for almost 2,000 extra police officers to help quell the raucous nightly demonstrations staged by the so-called Freedom Truck Convoy, which has used hundreds of parked trucks to paralyze the Canadian capital's business district. The protests have also infuriated people who live around downtown, including neighborhoods near Parliament Hill, the seat of the federal government.
Embattled Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly called the demonstration an “unprecedented protest never seen in Canada” and acknowledged that authorities failed to plan for it to last more than three days.
Many members of the GOP have made comments supporting the demonstrations, including former President Donald Trump, who called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “far left lunatic” who has “destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates."
Prominent Republicans including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton complained after crowdfunding site GoFundMe said it would refund the vast majority of the millions of dollars raised by demonstrators.
The site said it cut off funding for protest organizers after determining that their efforts violated the site’s terms of service by engaging in unlawful activity. Ontario Provincial Premier Doug Ford has called the protest an occupation.
In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted: “Patriotic Texans donated to Canadian truckers’ worthy cause.” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said on Fox News that “government doesn’t have the right to force you to comply to their arbitrary mandates."
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The “freedom truck convoy” has attracted support from many U.S. Republicans including former President Donald Trump, who called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “far left lunatic” who has "destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates.”
“Canada US relations used to be mainly about solving technical issues. Today Canada is unfortunately experiencing radical US politicians involving themselves in Canadian domestic issues. Trump and his followers are a threat not just to the US but to all democracies," Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. ambassador under President Barack Obama, tweeted.
Heyman said “under no circumstances should any group in the USA fund disruptive activities in Canada. Period. Full stop.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has called it an occupation.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxon tweeted: “Patriotic Texans donated to Canadian truckers' worthy cause." and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said on Fox News “government doesn’t have the right to force you to comply to their arbitrary mandates.”
“For some senior American politicians, patriotism means renting a mob to put a G-7 capital under siege,” tweeted Gerald Butts, a former senior adviser to Trudeau.
In Canada's largest city, Toronto, police controlled and later ended a much smaller protest by setting up road blocks and preventing any trucks or cars from getting near the provincial legislature. Police also moved in to clear a key intersection in the city.
Many Canadians have been outraged over the crude behavior of the demonstrators. Some protesters set fireworks off on the grounds of the National War Memorial late Friday. A number have carried signs and flags with swastikas last weekend and compared vaccine mandates to fascism.
Protesters have said they won’t leave until all mandates and COVID-19 restrictions are gone. They are also calling for the removal of Trudeau’s government, though it is responsible for few of the measures, most of which were put in place by provincial governments.
In other developments, Ontario Superior Court Justice Hugh McLean granted a 10-day injunction to prevent truckers parked on city streets in downtown Ottawa from honking their horns incessantly.